Hot on the heels of their official Flickr app for Android, Yahoo have released a their unimaginatively titled Yahoo! Weather Android app, but behind the banal name are signs that Yahoo are finally starting to understand how the vast treasures of Flickr might integrate into a mobile media world. While this is a fairly simple idea – combining global weather data with matching photographs – it’s the sort of thing we’ve not seen from Yahoo in a long time. More to the point, the simple design actually houses a great weather app, and it’s free. Yahoo are probably paying a license to use the Weather Channel data, but the real riches are the Flickr photos which are all provided by users for free. That said, I don’t think this is exploitation: each photo comes with credit to the photographer (well, their Flickr username) and a link back to the original photograph. For most Flickr users, the exposure far outweighs any thought of payment, especially in a free app.
Currently all photos are drawn from a specific purpose-driven Flickr group, so no one’s image will appear without them explicitly adding it to that group. However, there were just over 2500 photos when I looked this morning, so I guess a lot of the world isn’t covered yet. I’d suggest that in the next version, Yahoo make the most of those thousands and thousands of Creative Commons licensed images which folks have already explicitly given permission to re-use via their copyright license choice. Everything under a Creative Commons Attribution license, for example, would clearly be suitable for inclusion in the app. Given there are, literally, billions of Flickr photos, perhaps asking a whole lot of users to add specific photos to the Weather app group could broaden the potential photos rapidly.
It’s also noteworthy that Yahoo are focusing on Android apps right now. Rather than compete with the very entrenched iOS photo apps, Yahoo are courting Android users who’ve not really found their killer photo apps just yet.
Overall, though, it’s great to see Yahoo realising just how rich a resource Flickr can be for mobile apps. Flickr really is the jewel in Yahoo’s rusting crown, and if they can make it shine perhaps we’ll see the beginning of a fresh start for Yahoo, at least in terms of mobile development. This weather app just scratches the surface, but I suspect we’ll see tourism and other location-based apps quickly emerging, finally utilising the rich diversity of photos and metadata that constitutes the core of Flickr.